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Experts highlight the need for new right to information law for Balochistan

By: Mir Behram Baloch

Quetta: Balochistan Freedom of Information Act 2005 is ineffective and needs to be repealed. It does not facilitate citizens and journalists in getting information from public bodies. There is a need for an effective right to information law for the province on the lines of those enacted in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. These views were expressed by right to information experts, journalists and information commissioners of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. in a round table consultation on ‘Right to Information Legislation in Balochistan: the Way Forward’ on 08 November, 2016 at Serena Hotel, Quetta.

Advisor to Chief Minister, Balochistan Mr. Ahmed Raza Barech said that Balochistan government was working on a draft right to information law for the province, adding that Balochistan government was also reviewing Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 and the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013 and new draft information law would benefit from this law.

Chief Information Commissioner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission, Mr. Azmat Haneef Orakzai said that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013 was enacted as a part of governance reform agenda of PTI government after consultation with civil society “This law has been effective and citizens are using it to get their rights in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa,” he added.

Chief Information Commissioner, Punjab Information Commission, Mr. Mazhar Hussain Minhas said that Punjab Information Commission faced difficulty in implementing the Punjab Transparency and Right to Information Act 2013. He said that Punjab Information Commission has already given landmark judgements.

Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali, Information Commissioner, Punjab Information Commission analysed Balochistan Freedom of Information Act 2005 , said that it did not meet standards of effective right to information Legislation.” ‘Information’ is not defined, instead of one negative list, there are three lists, one pertains to records that will be shared, one pertains to records that will not be shared and then there is third list pertains to exceptions.” Mr. Mukhtar Ahmed Ali added.

Mr. Mukhtar suggested, “ This law is fundamentally flawed and cannot be improved and Balochistan government should enact a new law.”

Mr. Abdul Matin, Information Commissioner, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Information Commission said that any entity that performs public functions is included within the definition of public body in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Right to Information Act 2013.

Mr. Zummarak Achakzai, MPA said information is basic right of citizen and it is unfortunate that citizens do not have information about CPEC projects.

Mr. Amer Ejaz, Executive Director, CPDI said that based on right to information request filed by CPDI, now Punjab Assembly shares attendance record of MPAs on its web site whereas earlier this information was not provided to citizens. This has been possible only because there are independent and autonomous information commissions in Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. The request for information for the attendance records was also submitted in Balochistan and Sindh but information was not shared because of the ineffective right to information laws. He also said that Balochistan government should share draft of the information law with the public for comments.

Published in The Balochistan Point on November 8, 2016

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